Netflix Faces Boycott in India Over Muslim Boy Kissing Hindu Girl by Temple in 'A Suitable Boy'

Religious conservatives in India have called for a boycott of Netflix over a scene in which a Hindu girl kisses a Muslim boy on the site of a Hindu temple.

The controversy centres on British-made series, A Suitable Boy, based on a novel by one of India's leading writers, Vikram Seth. It follows the story of a university student in her search for a husband in a coming-of-age tale set in North India in 1951.

The program has received complaints over three kissing scenes as well as the use of a Hindu temple as a backdrop.

The TV streaming service was accused of "hurting the sentiments of a particular religion," sparking a police investigation in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Gaurav Tiwari, the national secretary of the youth wing of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party, demanded an apology from Netflix and the removal of "objectionable scenes."

He also claimed the scene was "encouraging love jihad," a reference to an Islamaphobic conspiracy theory that Muslims are seeking to forcibly convert Hindu women.

Finally My FIR against Netflix has been filed under section 295 (A) on Monica Shergill (VP Content) & Ambika Khurana (DPR, Netflix) over shooting kissing scenes under temple premises in ‘A Suitable Boy’ series.

I thank MP Police & HM Shri @drnarottammisra Ji for the support. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/iQocFrALR0

— Gaurav Tiwari (@adolitics) November 23, 2020

In a video statement, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra said: "I had asked officials to examine the series A Suitable Boy being streamed on Netflix to check if kissing scenes in it were filmed in a temple and if it hurt religious sentiments. The examination prima facie found that these scenes are hurting the sentiments of a particular religion."

Other leaders called for an outright ban on Netflix, including Arun Yadav, of the Indian National Congress party.

Message To All Nationalist 🚩#BanNetflix pic.twitter.com/cInfWQWqlk

— Arun Yadav (@beingarun28) November 23, 2020

Last month, an advert featuring a Hindu-Muslim family celebrating a baby shower was withdrawn following threats to one of its stores and widespread criticism online.

Jewellery firm Tanishq pulled the commercial showing a Hindu bride and her Muslim in-laws due to "hurt sentiments" amid calls for a boycott.

Netflix has hopes to expand its reach across India and its 1.35 billion inhabitants. However, with television shows and even adverts continuing to face both a public backlash and legal challenges, operating in the country is far from straightforward.

Muslims make up about 15 percent of India's population and many communities still regard inter-religious marriages as taboo.

Last December, the BJP pushed through a far-reaching citizenship law that critics say discriminates against Muslims.

The government insisted the new law was required to help immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who arrived in India before 2015 by offering them a pathway to citizenship.

But opponents argued that the law was anti-Muslim and violated the country's constitution by making religion a test for citizenship.

The Hindu nationalist BJP party has been accused of pursuing an "anti-Muslim" agenda by Human Rights Watch.

The group said in a report released in April: "Muslims in India have been increasingly at risk since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was first elected in 2014.

"Since the Modi administration first took office, BJP leaders have repeatedly made Hindu nationalist and anti-Muslim remarks in their speeches and interviews.

"These have, at times, encouraged and even incited violent attacks by party supporters who believe they have political protection and approval. They have beaten Muslim men for dating Hindu women."

BJP leaders have denied that they are anti-Muslim or that their policies have contributed to a rise in hate crime.

Newsweek contacted Netflix for comment.